TAXPAYERS will foot the bill for the Deputy Lord Mayor of Chester to be driven around in a Jaguar worth more than £28,000.
It had previously been decided that a lease would be taken out on a Toyota Prius, which are said to be more environmentally friendly as they run on both petrol and electricity.
But the deal fell through and members of the City of Chester Charter Trustees voted on Thursday evening to opt for a “more prestigious” Jag instead.
Labour councillors have taken to Twitter to vent their anger at the decision, which they say was taken by the majority of Conservative councillors on the committee.
Full details of the new deal were heard behind closed doors at the meeting as they are deemed commercially confidential.
The new Jaguar XE Prestige would be used by the Deputy Lord Mayor – currently Cllr Alex Black – while the Lord Mayor has access to a Bentley.
The Lord Mayor of Chester and chair of the trustees, Cllr Razia Daniels, told the Standard she could not comment on the new lease as details had been heard in private.
But Labour councillors Matt Bryan and Ben Powell spoke their minds on Twitter following the meeting.
Cllr Bryan wrote: “Never been as disgusted about a meeting than tonight's Chester Trustees. @CWaCTory voting to buy brand new polluting Jag for the 'prestige'.
“The Toyota Hybrid Prius alternative was cheaper, greener and the engine built in Deeside. Absolute insult to taxpayers.”
And Cllr Powell added: “I'm all for supporting the automotive sector, but can't justify such a vehicle for the Mayor's second car when people are using food banks.”
Cllr Powell later told this newspaper: “I have never left a meeting feeling so angry. What's frustrating is that I am limited in what I can say about what happened in the meeting as it is deemed commercially confidential, but there is nothing stopping me from saying that I'm absolutely appalled by this decision.
“Sadly unlike the council, the Charter Trustees has a majority of Conservative members. I have to ask how can people can on the one hand support cuts to the most vulnerable and on the other support using public money to acquire a second luxury car? What planet are they on?
“When other cities are sending out the right message and reigning in this kind of pomposity by using hybrid vehicles with a much lower RRP, it is frankly embarrassing that Chester is being forced in the other direction.
“Decisions like this are everything that people hate about politics and I am only sorry that I couldn't stop it.”
Prices of the Jaguar XE prestige start at around £28,000 while a basic Prius model costs about £23,000.
A report to the City of Chester Charter Trustees revealed that a number of options had been considered.
It states: “The sub-committee considered all of the quotes and thought that whilst a hybrid would be desirable, it was felt that they were not yet tried and tested sufficiently enough that they could be confident that it was the best car for the purpose.
“They felt that improvements to electric/hybrid cars were being made all the time and that the lease of such a car should be re-visited in three years when any new lease would be due for renewal.”
There is a budget of £34,600 for cars and fuel for 2017-18. The second civic car is currently a Vauxhall Insignia with a lease cost of £5,424 for the year.
The document – which is publicly available - also reveals civic cars used by neighbouring authorities: an Audi A6 in Warrington; an Audi A8 in Halton; a Mercedes in Liverpool; a Vauxhall Insignia in Wirral; and a Skoda Superb in Wrexham.
See full story in the Chester Leader